Homelessness Is Subject of Art Exhibit at Holy Faith Church

Letters Home is the creation of area artist, Susan Clinthorne, and her sister, Sally Thielen, who have been photographing homeless people from across the country.

is hosting "Letters Home," an art installation about homelessness in America, until Feb. 10.

The public is invited to view the exhibit from 9 a.m. until noon, Sunday, Feb. 5, or from noon to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 8. The church is located at 6299 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd.

Letters Home is the creation of area artist, Susan Clinthorne, and her sister, Sally Thielen, who together have been photographing and getting to know their homeless subjects in such places as Ann Arbor, Flint, Chicago, New York, and along the West Coast. The two artists show the installation for free, making no money from the project.

The purpose of Letters Home is to raise awareness of the problem of homelessness and to break down an us-versus-them distinction for the viewer.  It features life-sized, cut-out, black-and-white-photo portraits, as well as framed cardboard signs, a shopping cart, a cardboard "shelter" and a light box with a list of famous people who have been homeless—from entertainers like Kelly Clarkson and Halle Berry to religious figures like the Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth. 

In its current installment at Holy Faith, the life-size photos of varying races and ages populate the walls throughout the building, including the sanctuary where the images become part of the worship experience. One woman leans forward in a strong wind with a sign that asks for help and wishes God's blessing on the viewer. Other signs read, "Need cell phone for job aps—anything helps," or "Celebrating 1 Full year of total sobriety 1 day at a time. Homeless: old: ugly in my 60's and Sober." Several signs announce that their bearers are veterans, a reminder that a disproportionate number of those who have served in our armed forces struggle with homelessness. A couple of others have a round mirror installed where the face should be. Look at them straight on, and the viewer sees her own face in the face of the subject.

"For us, it's a way to see the face of Christ in other people, especially those we may try hardest not to see," said the church's pastor, Ian Reed Twiss. "Having this representational community of unfortunate people around us as we worship is a pretty powerful reminder of what the church should be about and who the church should be including." 

Holy Faith, along with other area churches, has been active for years in serving food at the Delonis Homeless Shelter in Ann Arbor and has recently taken up collections of money, sleeping bags, blankets, tents, and coats for Camp Take Notice, a homeless tent community on Wagner Road.

Noting that we often don't take time to engage in real-world encounters with homeless people, Clinthorne said that Letters Home "gives an opportunity for a physical and emotional experience by offering time to look, to read, to feel, to touch and to imagine."

For more information, contact Pastor Ian Reed Twiss at ian@holy-faith-church.org, or Susan Clinthorne at sclint55@email.com.

E. Brooks Hinerman January 30, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I have seen the installation and it is very moving. I highly recommend taking some time to see it. The tent display gave me insight into the conditions at Camp Take Notice and their need for support. Now I have a glimpse into the lives of the homeless people I see on street corners and my attitude towards them has been changed for good.
Tran Longmoore January 30, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Is Camp Take Notice still up?
Ian Reed Twiss February 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Yes, Camp Take Notice is still functioning. This fall they had an influx of folks and were up to about 40 people, including 3 pregnant women. Delonis is full with a long waiting list, and Camp Take Notice is becoming many homeless people's next stop.


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